CEDAR FALLS — North Polk took possession of the football at its 42, with 1:44 on the first-half clock, three timeouts in its pocket and down a couple of touchdowns.
Air it out? Hardly.
The Comets ran a couple of short pass plays and a quarterback sneak, letting time run. In fact, coaches yelled at the game officials when the clock wasn’t wound after a measurement showed their team was short of first down on the sneak.
That might say something about these Iowa City Regina Regals. Opposing teams apparently are content just to play them close.North Polk did that for the most part Saturday, hanging around in the Class 2A state championship game at the UNI-Dome but never really threatening in Regina’s 21-0 victory. It was the second state title in five years for the Regals and the completion of a dominant 14-0 season that saw them beat 3A winner Solon in Week 2, 21-15.
Other than that, this was the tightest game they had.
“We never looked beyond the game we were playing,” said Regina’s Anthony Halsch, who rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown. “Since this was the last one, hey, this is it. All year, it was state title or bust. That’s what we worked for.”
That’s what they got.
“Obviously, I’ve had some great experiences (in football), but to be a part of this group of guys …,” said Regina Coach Marv Cook. “Guys that truly love and play the game for all the right reasons. That have the right passion about it, that have been so focused for the last three or four years (on) doing what we asked them to do.”
The Iowa High School Athletic Association described Regina’s defense as “intimidating” in its pregame notes, which certainly fits. The Regals came in allowing a state-best 4.1 points per game and limited ground-based North Polk (11-3) to 161 yards in their eighth shutout.
The Comets got into the red zone just once, late in the fourth quarter, with Regina recovering a fumble off a bad center snap.
“We were a little worried,” said Regina’s Zach Pechous, who had an interception. “We knew they were going to come out (hard), they had nothing to lose. They were a good running team, and we just had to overcome that and play good defense.”
Regina’s offense was hit and miss. Part of the hit was quarterback Jack Verducci’s 72-yard TD bomb to Daniel Carew late in the first quarter that broke a scoreless tie.
Halsch ran in from 27 yards midway through the second quarter to make it 14-0 at the half. Fullback Jacob Vollstedt’s 3-yard TD run capped a long drive early in the fourth.
Verducci completed 6 of 10 passes for 142 yards.
“They were so well coached, and they were very disciplined,” Verducci said of North Polk. “But those big plays … We were all just ecstatic about those.”
“We got 14 points and probably did get a little conservative,” Cook said. “But North Polk did some incredible things that gave us some problems.”
Not nearly enough of them.
Here are short video interviews with Cook and Verducci: